Sports Outside the Beltway

Drew Brees Threatens to Sue Mom Over Campaign Ads

Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees has threatened to sue his mom if she doesn’t stop using his likeness in her campaign commercials.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has asked his mother to stop using his picture in TV commercials touting her candidacy for a Texas appeals court. In commercials running on Austin stations, Mina Brees had been using a picture of her son in the uniform of his former team, the San Diego Chargers, to emphasize her ties to football. “I think the major point here is that my mother is using me in a campaign, and I’ve made it known many times I don’t want to be involved,” Drew Brees said Monday.

Mina Brees, an Austin attorney, is running as a Democrat for a spot on Texas’ 3rd Court of Appeals. She said replacement commercials that omit any mention of her son were taped last week and sent to stations on Friday. She said she did not anticipate upsetting her son and that “everything in the ad was true.” She said her connection to football is relevant to her campaign because her father, a successful high school coach, used sports to teach her a strong work ethic that she would bring to the judicial bench.

Drew Brees, who won a state football championship with Westlake High School in suburban Austin, said he got no response from his mother when he first heard about the ads and called her to ask that she stop using them. His agent sent her a letter Oct. 20 threatening legal action, he said. He called his relationship with his mother “nonexistent” after it crumbled six years ago when he refused to hire her as his agent.

Mina Brees said her son’s allegations were a mischaracterization and that she had no intention of becoming his agent. “I love Drew very much, and I’m very proud of him. But sometimes when people are following a career path, they change,” she said.

Wow. This is a pretty sad story no matter how you slice it.



Redskins’ Campbell Has Romo Envy

Now that the Dallas Cowboys have ended their quarterback controversy, attention shifts to the one brewing against their NFC East arch rival.

Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell stayed up to watch the whole game Sunday night when Tony Romo won as a first-time starter for the Dallas Cowboys. “He kept his composure, played with a lot of poise,” Campbell said Monday. “It’s something you have to do when your first time comes.” Campbell did his best not to sound envious, but he is still waiting for his first time. And with the Cowboys coming to town this week, the debate over when that should happen will only intensify.

Romo’s performance in the Cowboys’ 35-14 victory at Carolina was vindication for Dallas coach Bill Parcells’ decision to bench 30-something Drew Bledsoe and give an untested youngster a shot at energizing an inconsistent offense. There’s a case that Joe Gibbs should do the same — by replacing Mark Brunell with Campbell — but the Redskins coach isn’t yet ready to copy his longtime nemesis. Gibbs, for that matter, wouldn’t offer an opinion on what Parcells’ move. “For me to say something about that is out of place for me,” Gibbs said. “What they’ve got right now is a quarterback who played extremely well last night.”

The Redskins traded three draft picks so they could move up and select Campbell in the first round in 2005. He has been the inactive No. 3 quarterback for every game since. No one would question his absence of playing time if Washington were headed toward another playoff season, but Gibbs’ team is 2-5 and struggling to establish an offensive identity.

“Right now you’ve just got to stay patient and stay confident and understand that when your number’s called, that you can go in there and do some good things,” Campbell said. “It’s just another test in your life. You’ve got to understand it’s all going to pay off for you one day. I’ve seen guys thrown in there who weren’t ready, and I’ve seen guys have to wait.”

Far be it from me to give quarterbacking advice to a Hall of Fame coach who made his bones as an offensive guru and won three Super Bowls with three different QBs. Still, Brunell and Bledsoe are comparable: former Pro Bowl caliber guys who seem to have lost something. Both were hampering the progress of young QBs with potential on their teams.

Tony Romo looked quite good in his starting debut, although he was horrid as a second half replacement for Bledsoe against the Giants the week before. He’s also in his fourth year in the league, having come in as an undrafted free agent who was the top player in Division I-AA. Campbell is only in his second second but was a 1st round pick and a star at the highest levels.

If, as I hope, the Cowboys come to town and make the Redskins a 2-6 team, it’ll all but end Washington’s season. At that point, Gibbs has no real choice but to make the switch and start seeing what he’s got in Campbell.


What’s Wrong with Redskins?

In a piece entitled, “What’s wrong with Skins? How much time you got?” ESPN’s Greg Garber gives an example of what a lack of discipline and some sheer bad luck will do for you:

Randle El, a multipurpose wide receiver from Pittsburgh who signed a seven-year free-agent contract worth $31 million, was involved in a bizarre sequence on Sunday in Indianapolis that perfectly framed what’s gone so terribly wrong in Washington.

For the first time this season, Randle El produced an electrifying punt return — 87 yards, all the way into the end zone to give the Redskins a 14-10 lead. But then he leaped into the goal post, which is not on the NFL’s list of approved celebration props. That cost Washington 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff. And then Sean Taylor was called for an offside penalty, which moved the Redskins back to their 10-yard line. Thus, punter Derrick Frost was brought on for the free kick. But he kicked before the whistle and the play was ruled dead. Frost ripped off his helmet and screamed at the officials, costing the Redskins a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. Frost eventually kicked from his 5-yard line.

Said Gibbs, “I’ve never seen that before.”

Me either.

The Redskins are 2-5, the same record as the Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, and Cleveland Browns. Like two other 2-5 teams–the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Pittsburgh Steelers–they’ve a lot better than that. They’ve got talent at key positions and solid coaching. But they’re going to have to pull out of their slump fast if they are going to avoid joining that first bunch at missing the playoffs.

With my Dallas Cowboys coming in this weekend, I hope they wait at least another week.


Cowboys Plane Diverted, Coach Tony Ollison Possible Heart Attack

The Dallas Cowboys’ plane had to make an emergency landing last night after strength and conditioning coach Tony Ollison reported feeling sick.

A Cowboys assistant coach became ill on the team’s flight home, forcing the chartered jet to make an unscheduled landing in Nashville, Tenn., early Monday. Strength and conditioning coach Tony Ollison was taken to Southern Hills Medical Center and was in stable condition, the team said.

Dallas beat the Carolina Panthers 35-14 Sunday night, and the jet had just taken off from Charlotte, N.C., when Ollison complained that he was not well. Reporters on board said team doctors examined Ollison and found he had a low blood pressure and was sweating heavily. Ollison was given oxygen, and the jet landed in Nashville so Ollison could get to a hospital.

Airport spokeswoman Lynne Lowrance said the airport received an emergency call from the flight that there was a possible heart attack victim on board. Lowrance said Ollison was conscious when the flight landed.

The jet resumed its flight to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, landing about 5 a.m. Monday.

Ollison has been part of the Cowboys’ staff for six years and also works as a strength and conditioning coach for the Dallas Desperadoes of the Arena Football League. In college, he played defensive tackle for Arkansas in 1986-90.

I hope it’s nothing serious. In any case, getting him to a hospital quickly was a prudent move.


Red Auerbach Dead at 89

Arnold “Red” Auerbach, the most storied coach in NBA history, died Saturday of a heart attack.

Red Auerbach Consumate Coach ESPN Banner

Red Auerbach, the Hall of Famer who guided the Celtics to 16 championships — first as a coach and later as general manager — died Saturday. He was 89. Auerbach died of a heart attack near his home in Washington, according to an NBA official, who didn’t want to be identified. His last public appearance was on Wednesday, when he received the U.S. Navy’s Lone Sailor Award in front of family and friends at a ceremony in the nation’s capital.

Auerbach’s death was announced by the Celtics, who still employed him as team president. The 2006-07 season will be dedicated to him, they said. “He was relentless and produced the greatest basketball dynasty so far that this country has ever seen and certainly that the NBA has ever seen,” said Bob Cousy, the point guard for many of Auerbach’s championship teams who referred to his coach by his given name. “This is a personal loss for me. Arnold and I have been together since 1950. I was fortunate that I was able to attend a function with him Wednesday night. … I am so glad now that I took the time to be there and spend a few more moments with him.”

Tom Heinsohn, who played under Auerbach and then coached the Celtics when he was their general manager, remembered his personal side. “He was exceptional at listening and motivating people to put out their very best,” Heinsohn said. “In my playing days he once gave me a loaded cigar, and six months later I gave him one. That was our relationship. We had a tremendous amount of fun, and the game of basketball will never see anyone else like him.”

Auerbach’s 938 victories made him the winningest coach in NBA history until Lenny Wilkens overtook him during the 1994-95 season.

“Red Auerbach was the consummate teacher, leader, and a true pioneer of the sport of basketball,” commissioner David Stern said on “The NBA wouldn’t be what it is today without him.”

Auerbach’s nine titles as a coach came in the 1950s and 1960s — including eight straight from 1959 through 1966 — and then through shrewd deals and foresight he became the architect of Celtics teams that won seven more championships in the 1970s and 1980s.

“Red was a true champion and one whose legacy transcends the Celtics and basketball,” Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts said. “He was the gold standard in coaching and in civic leadership, and he set an example that continues today. We all knew and loved Red in the Kennedy family.”

Auerbach was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969. The jersey No. 2 was retired by the Celtics in his honor during the 1984-85 season.

“He was a unique personality, a combination of toughness and great, great caring about people,” said author John Feinstein, who last year collaborated on a book with Auerbach on the coach’s reflections of seven decades in basketball. “He cared about people much more than it showed in his public face, and that’s why people cared about him.”

Red Auerbach Cigar Photo

I’ve never been more than a casual basketball fan and Auerbach’s coaching era ended when I was in diapers. I have, however, heard many interviews with Auerbach and people who knew him well, like Feinstein and ex-Georgetown coach John Thompson, who briefly played for Auerbach. He was an incredibly impressive man who could have been an inspirational leader in any walk of life he’d chosen. Even well removed from his coaching days, he continued to teach and motivate. He will be missed.


Ex-Heavyweight Champ Trevor Berbick Dead at 52

Trevor Berbick was murdered Saturday.

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Former heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick was found dead in a church courtyard Saturday with chop wounds to his head in a suspected homicide.

Trevor Berbick - Mike Tyson Fight Photo Berbick, who was believed to be 52 and was beset by legal problems after his retirement from the ring, lost his heavyweight title to Mike Tyson and was the last boxer to fight Muhammad Ali.

Berbick’s body was discovered about 6:30 a.m. in his hometown parish of Portland, constable Beverly Howell said. He was pronounced dead by a local doctor in the courtyard. Police are treating Berbick’s death as a homicide, Inspector Victor Henry said. Police had no word on what kind of weapon was used or how many people were involved in Berbick’s death, Howell said.

After beating Ali in 1981 in a unanimous decision in the Bahamas, Berbick went on to win the WBC heavyweight title four years later in a decision over Pinklon Thomas. His reign was short, however, as a 20-year-old Tyson knocked Berbick out in the second round of their bout on Nov. 22, 1986, to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history.

A shame. As noted in “Pulp Fiction,” there’s no old-timers’ game in boxing. Once they’re done with you, they’re done, unless you’ve got the charisma of a Muhammad Ali or George Foreman.


Bobby Bowden Not Quite Ready to Retire

Despite being 77 and having his worst start in years, Bobby Bowden plans on sticking around for a while.

Bobby Bowden settled into a chair at Florida State’s team hotel on Friday night, and before the questions even began, he mentioned how he wished his team was 7-0. “And so do the boosters,” Bowden quipped.

But Florida State is 4-3 for the first time since 1983 and unranked heading into Saturday night’s game at Maryland. His team has lost seven of its last 12 games. And shortly before his 77th birthday, with the Seminoles mired in last place, two FSU boosters came out this week and said it is time for Bowden to retire.

Here is some of what Bowden had to say Friday night to ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad. Bowden was spirited, and you might even say defiant.

Schad: What has this season been like for you?

Bowden: It’s been disappointing. The big thing is we backed ourselves into a corner the last 20 years. We won too many games for our people. We haven’t lived up to our expectations. I’m disappointed we haven’t won more games, but I am not disappointed in our players.

Schad: What has been the reaction to being in last place?

Bowden: We’ve probably got about 100,000 boosters. Who are you talking about? One booster speaks out, I’m too old, I oughta retire. He’s half right, but I’m not ready. Most of them are guys who don’t know football.

Schad: At what stage of your career do you feel you’re at?

Bowden: I’m getting down to latter years. I want to coach as long as I feel good. I’d rather do this than retire. I have to face reality, I can’t coach forever. I’ve got to win goshdarn games. I am going to stay as long as you are here, I’ve told my players that. There will be a day when my health won’t allow me to go on.

Schad: You’ve said you’ll coach unless you’re being unfair to Florida State. What would be unfair?

Bowden: It would be unfair if my kids weren’t playing the best they could. They are. But they are making mistakes. That’s what the freshman are supposed to do.

Schad: At what time in you career do you feel you were most effective as a coach?

Bowden: I’ve had success nearly everywhere I’ve been. In the ’90s, we won more games than any other school in the history of college football. We were number one every week since the end of the season. That’s what spoiled people. You ain’t gonna do that every season.

Schad: How do you compare now, as a coach?

Bowden: Today as a coach? I haven’t forgotten anything. (Pauses) We haven’t been successful. We lost three ball games. Nobody has bashed us. Nobody has knocked us around. We could have won in the last minute. We’re close.

Schad: How does you situation now compare to Joe Paterno’s two years ago?

Bowden: Joe said, “I’ll be back.” Well, I feel the same way. You get to my age, the team is successful. And then they stop winning and people start looking for excuses.

Schad: Have you and Joe Paterno talked about how some things are different now?

Bowden: Nowadays, a problem occurs and the whole country knows. It’s kind of made it less fun off the field. Our greatest moments come when we go to practice.

Schad: Why is it less fun?

Bowden: When I first started coaching, you either won or lost. Then they might talk about the game, but nobody blamed anybody. Now it’s gotten to, lose a ball game, somebody tries to blame. Football is a team game.

Not long ago, mandatory retirement at 65 or 70 for state employees took care of this issue. I’ve got no idea if Bowden has lost a step as a coach. I thought Joe Paterno had, to be sure, but he made a nice comeback. I certainly wouldn’t count Bowden out. And considering where FSU was before he came aboard, they owe him a couple of bad seasons.


What Keeps Bill Parcells Awake at Night

Michael Lewis has an in-depth profile of Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells in the NYT Sunday Magazine entitled “What Keeps Bill Parcells Awake at Night.”

Some excerpts:

Bill Parcells is the only coach in N.F.L. history to take four different teams to the playoffs, but that only begins to set him apart. In 1983, in his first N.F.L. head coaching job, he took over a New York Giants team that had one winning season over the previous decade, turned it around on a dime and led it to Super Bowl titles in the 1986 and 1990 seasons. In 1993, he became head coach of the New England Patriots a year after they finished 2-14. Two seasons later they were 10-6 and in the playoffs for the first time in eight years; another two seasons later, they were in the Super Bowl. From there Parcells went to the Jets, who were coming off a 1-15 season, and coached them to a 9-7 record in his first year and a 12-4 record in his second. The Cowboys had finished 5-11 three seasons in a row before Parcells arrived in 2003. His first year they were 10-6 and reached the playoffs. No N.F.L. coach has ever proven himself so clearly to be a device for turning a losing team into a winning one. And yet, even now, as he begins his 16th season as a head coach in the N.F.L., he lives the psychological equivalent of a hand-to-mouth existence.


He still returns in his mind to a question his wife often asked him: why do you do what you do? Coaching football doesn’t make him obviously happy. Even in the beginning, in the late 1960’s, when he was an assistant coach at West Point, he would come home after games so evidently displeased that his eldest daughter would sit on the sofa next to him, silently, and put on a long face. She was 5 years old and had no idea what had happened; she just picked it up from his expression that postgame wasn’t happy time. “When my wife asked me that question,” he says, “I never had a good answer. There was no answer. There is no answer.”


When watching video, Parcells doesn’t usually waste a lot of time studying his quarterback. That’s one player he can see pretty well during the game. But this morning has been different. Against the Jaguars, Drew Bledsoe missed throws he once made in his sleep. He was indecisive and slow to see open receivers. As a result, he held the ball far too long. Last season Bledsoe was sacked 49 times and smacked in the act of throwing 82 times, a league high. He has been showing the symptoms of a quarterback who is looking at the rush instead of his receivers — which is to say a quarterback who should no longer be playing in the N.F.L. Parcells studied the video to determine if Bledsoe had indeed lost his nerve. The video didn’t say. But the video did reveal that the Cowboys’ cornerbacks were soft and that his left tackle’s inability to handle the pass rush had the potential to ruin the Cowboys’ season.


What has him troubled — what has him waking up choking on his bile — isn’t what you might expect. It’s not concern that the Redskins’ coaching staff could spring something on the Cowboys for which they are entirely unprepared. And it’s not his team’s raw ability. It’s a thing that’s harder to put into words, and impervious to strategy. Even as he is trying to study his next opponent, he can’t shake what happened on Sunday. How his team, the moment the Jaguars pushed back, collapsed. How, the moment the players felt the pressure, they began to commit penalties and the sort of small but critical mental errors that only a coach watching video can perceive. In their performance he smells the sort of failure he defines himself against.


It’s heresy in the N.F.L. to suggest there should be free time, or that there is such a thing as diminishing returns to work. But the truth is that there are some days when there is more to do than others, and on Saturday there is next to nothing to do. All strategic decisions have been made, all plays practiced, everyone who needs to be yelled at has been yelled at, at least twice. When I ask Parcells how he spends Saturday, he says, “Worrying about the game.” One sign of how little actual work needs to be done is that he sets aside the morning for the photographers to take this season’s official team photograph.

By the time the players — 63 of them — have arranged themselves on the scaffolding, there are, in addition, 32 coaches, trainers and other support staff. The number of jobs on the playing field has remained steady for decades, but the number of ancillary jobs has boomed. (This is one of the two notable differences when you compare current team photos with those from the early 1960’s that decorate the Cowboys’ hallways. The other is the increasing numbers of black players.) In 1961, the Dallas team photo had just 6 men out of uniform; as late as 1980 it had a mere 13. The turning point came in 1990, when the team photographer could no longer cram all the nonplayers into a single row and began to stick two at both ends of the rows. As the price of the asset — the N.F.L. player — has skyrocketed, so has the value of those, however peripheral, who can extract a bit more value from it. As the game becomes more complex, it requires more people to understand it, and as more people are brought in to parse it, it becomes more complex. By about 2030, the Cowboys’ team photo will be a handful of players nestled among hundreds of trainers and coaches and God knows what else. Competitive forces break people’s nerves. They also reshape football teams.

Parcells is a complex man doing an incredibly tough job.

One thing that is clear from this piece–and I commend the whole thing to you–is that he knew from the outset, or at least after the first game of the year, that Drew Bledsoe no longer had what it takes to lead a team to the Super Bowl. It wouldn’t surprise me if he knew that last season. One wonders, then, why the Cowboys didn’t either pick up Drew Brees in the off-season or take a quarterback in the first round. If he legitimately thought Tony Romo was the answer, he would have started Game 1. He didn’t.


St. Louis Cardinals 2006 World Series Champions

St. Louis Cardinals 2006 World Series Champions

The St. Louis Cardinals have won the 2006 World Series, four games to one over the Detroit Tigers.

No Fall Classic, for sure.

Flatter than the Midwestern heartland and a flop in the TV ratings, this World Series crowned a champion that barely made it to the postseason and then had to survive rain and cold as much as the bumbling Detroit Tigers. The St. Louis Cardinals will take it, though.

They beat the Tigers 4-2 in Game 5 on Friday night behind castoffs Jeff Weaver and David Eckstein and sore-shouldered Scott Rolen to wrap up their first Series title in nearly a quarter-century and 10th overall.

“I think we shocked the world,” Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds said.

Manager Tony La Russa’s team had just 83 regular-season wins, the fewest by a World Series champion, and nearly missed the playoffs after a late-season slump. But St. Louis beat San Diego and the New York Mets in the first two rounds, then won its first title since 1982 by taming a heavily favored Tigers team that entered the Series with six days’ rest and still looked stale.


St. Louis (83-78) almost didn’t even make it to the postseason. The Cardinals had a seven-game NL Central lead with 12 to go but lost eight of nine before recovering to finish 1½ games ahead of Houston, the defending NL champion.

Minnesota, in 1987, had set the previous low for wins by a Series winner, going 85-77.

“The team that wins a world championship is the team that played the best,” La Russa said.


La Russa, who led the Oakland Athletics to a sweep in the earthquake-interrupted 1989 Bay Bridge Series, joined Sparky Anderson (Cincinnati and Detroit) as the only managers to win Series titles in each league.

“I have such a respect and affection for Sparky,” La Russa said. “It’s such a great honor. He should really have this alone.”

Only seven managers have taken a team from each league to the World Series. If Jim Leyland (’97 Marlins) had won this year, he would have been in La Russa’ shoes.

Winning in the baseball playoffs is a matter of streaky hitting and hot pitching. Many a team with a spectacular regular season record falls off in the playoffs.


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